Sculpture, Matter and Motion
Bárbara Coutinho

“This is the woman who gained notoriety in the sixties and seventies when she led an epistemological break with the traditional conception of jewellery in Portugal, although her dream was… sculpture. This did not happen due to several limitations, inherent of that time, yet the sculptural sensibility and language are a constant in her work. More. They are one of the features that set her apart. This sensitivity manifests itself in the taste for matter and modelling (enhanced by her experience in ceramics),
in the refined plasticity and in the particular attention to the concrete nature of shapes, textures and volumes. Kukas never lost the desire to expand her pieces – be they jewellery or objects – to a sculptural scale, in the same way she always aspired to produce her utilitarian objects on an industrial scale.
Her work is testimony of the demand for a strong formal performativity and of a great pleasure in the direct contact with the materials, showing the importance given to the gesture, the corporeality and the tactility of every surface. The pieces have their own body, a density and a weight, a concrete structure, qualities achieved by the way in which she treats each material, which approaches her to an abstract research, undertaken since the fifties, in painting and sculpture. Throughout her path, Kukas has known how to extract a unique expressiveness from each material that can assume an almost archaeological slant or suggest a manual brutalism, an organic language, more or less expressionistic, or a more geometric formativeness, at times with an industrial flavour, at others profoundly abstract. The sculptural value of each adornment object is omnipresent. To this end, the very scale, size and proportionality of her earrings, bracelets, rings or pins applies. The preference for large dimensions is yet another hallmark of her signature. Kukas explicitly rejects the small scale or “miniature” as she rejects imitations, replicas and the instituted taste. No piece goes unnoticed. Quite on the contrary… They all have a strong identity and presence, distinguishing the body that wears them. The election of perennial materials is justified because each piece of jewellery is, in her opinion, a testimony of a time. It must perpetuate. Silver and gold, chrome or silver plated metal are combined in an original way, with a unique sense of style and full inventiveness. To these are added the stones, chosen not for their market value, but rather for their translucent nature. Opacity does not attract her. The leading role belongs to the rock crystals, the moonstones and the quartz. Kukas searches for stones that allow the foresight or the penetration of space itself, by being permeable to changing light and its reflections, another manifestation of her sculptural sensibility, to which a special spatial perception is added.
Knowing of the tradition of manual work in Portugal, the formality of her proposals projects them to an international understanding. The poetics and the driving force of her pieces remits them to a refined, cultivated, stark and abstract aesthetic yet at the same time approaches them to a universal expression that crosses time and approaches peoples and civilizations. The privilege given to the primordial and archaic shapes – cubes, spheres, spirals, pyramids – reminds us of certain ornaments used since the ancient cultures and primitive peoples.
Another distinctive aspect of her work is the way in which she assembles different volumes and masses, creating tension and intersection points, generating an apparent instability or suggesting an intrinsic movement, evidenced through the action of the body itself or the game of reflexes. They sometimes seem almost like space structures in transit. Through the way in which Kukas projects these moving forms on the body/space, expresses a constructivist taste that explores with great imagination, for instance, symmetry/asymmetry and harmony/disharmony. “

Bárbara Coutinho, Setembro de 2011

Director of MUDE – Museu do Design e da Moda, Colecção Francisco Capelo 

In catálogo da exposição Kukas: Uma nuvem que desaba em chuva (page 9)

MUDE – Museu do Design e da Moda, Colecção Francisco Capelo
and INCM – Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda

Scientific design and coordination Cristina Filipe
Editorial coordination Rita Rodrigues
Institutional text Catarina Vaz Pinto
Essay Bárbara Coutinho, Cristina Filipe, Kukas
Graphic design Nuno Vale Cardoso + Nina Barreiros
Format 29×14,5cm \ 160 p.
Year 2011



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